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Empower Your Employees, Empower Innovation

4 guidelines on how technology can help you truly harness employee productivity

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ESB Professional

How are you empowering your workforce? It’s a question worth asking, and if you aren’t asking it, then your employees almost definitely are. According to an Ultimate Software survey, 92% of employees say that having technology necessary to do their job efficiently affects their satisfaction at work. More pressing, about one out of three said they would quit if the tech was too outdated. It’s not hyperbole to say that, to the modern worker, tech equals empowerment.

Luckily, evidence shows the shift is reaching the c-suite, too. In CIO’s State of the CIO 2018 survey, 88% of CIOs say their role is becoming more digital and innovation focused. Compare this data to State of the CIO 2015 when only 13% of CIOs were labeled as “business leaders” (lagging behind service provider at 38%, business partner at 30% and, most concerning, cost center at 18%). Leadership is synonymous with vision, which stakeholders inside and outside of IT now expect of the CIO.

One good practice is to tighten the feedback cycle, particularly when it comes to leading your team into new tech ventures. CIOs are now empowered to share their business vision, but today that vision must be broken down into achievable, results-driven steps for the IT team specifically and the organization in general.

The numbers tell the tale: According to a recent study of corporate change, 50% of organizations settle for dilution of value and mediocre results and 38% fell well short of expected results. The Bain & Company study suggested using “high-velocity learning loops”, with the study designers arguing that quicker insights “enable feedback of lessons from the front line to the executive suite.” It enables you to check the pulse of your team while the achievement gives them (and you) the momentum to tackle the ultimate goal.

It is also worth creating a structure to balance the daily tasks with the visionary ones. Seventy-three percent interviewed in the State of the CIO say that it’s challenging to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence. If you are feeling overwhelmed by vision versus operation, then imagine the potential confusion for your front line. Clear cut priorities and milestones from the top can prevent them from drowning in immediate needs or being obsessed with the big picture.

As you empower and motivate your team, be aware that shifting resources to support innovation takes planning, and progress takes time. IDG’s State of the CIO found that tech leaders, by the year 2021, want to put 57% of their resources into strategy and only 11% into functional duties. However, in 2018, less than half of that amount (25%) is dedicated to strategy and more than double that amount (27%) is dedicated to functional.

With those pieces in place, a culture of innovation takes hold. “Innovation starts with corporate culture,” writes Sarah K. White in CIO.  “It needs to be fostered throughout departments, encouraged and, perhaps most importantly, followed up on.”

Adds Pamela Rucker, chair at the Technology Advisory Council, and CIO Advisor for Women in Leadership on the CIO Executive Council, “Hire and promote people with diverse skillsets, diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures that believe in big ideas for how your company can change the world. Give them an incubation center to promote those concepts, and you will see innovations you never considered, and you'll find ways to grow and sustain your customer base by promoting the new things you have to offer them."